Political Exile, Political Refuge
I have to confess that the months, then weeks, then days, even hours leading up to the Presidential Election 2008 I did quite a lot of Nervous Baking. Cake, cookies, muffins, pies. Comfort baking. Comfort food. It kept me sane and focused. It kept me busy and kept me from running through the house pulling my hair and screaming from the sheer tension and angst.
What was unusual for me was that for the first time since my discovery of the world of blogs, I tore myself away from my daily fill of favorite food sites to the wide, wild, passionate, sometimes heated universe of political blogs. Living so far away from the center of the election universe, getting no closer to the battlefield than my tv, newspapers and computer allowed, having no one around with whom to talk, discuss, dissect or argue (well, argue...) I turned to the internet for succor. I was immediately sucked into the emotional whirlwind of the campaign, jumping from video to campaign site to tv commentary and interview to newspaper headlines. I followed on-line discussions about registration and phone banks, stories about door knocking and neighborhood drives, I witnessed the debunking of smears and I laughted at the gaffes. I listened to speeches and accusations, promises and jokes. But I still had no where to stop and rest, nowhere to unload my rantings, share my thoughts or air my opinions.
I finally settled on one blog, written by the passionate, hard-working, smart and funny AKMuckraker at Mudflats, logging on every morning and tuning into the chat. Needless to say, I found like-minded souls, political and ideological brethren. AKM brought us together around the proverbial political campfire, handing out mugs of hot cocoa and food for thought. She braved the snow and the freezing temperatures to courageously face the often mad, sometimes corrupt world of Alaskan Politics and beyond. All we had to do was pull up a comfortable chair in our warm homes and, with a click of our mouse, we were informed, amused and inspired.
Politics has always been a part of my life. Though rarely involved, I was always aware. My parents brought us along to listen to Hubert Humphrey speak in front of the Jewish Community in Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1968. Even at 8, I was somehow aware of the importance of this man who bent down to shake my hand, impressed by the significance of the moment. 1972, my brother Michael proudly wore his McGovern for President button though 3 years too young to vote, something that I thought was the epitomy of cool, adult and smart. His high school art projects were peppered with political caricatures and cartoons which I tried so hard to understand. We spent our teen years as bleeding heart liberals who decried the government’s wasteful spending on space exploration when people were living in poverty down on earth. My youth group projects often centered around the plight of the Russian Jews and the difficult, often controversial, situation of the State of Israel. I came of age in an era of Women’s Rights which sent out the message that we should be striving to have it all: graduate degrees and high-paying, high-powered jobs, equality in marriage and shards of that good old glass ceiling in our hair as we crashed our way onward and upward.
I actually started to feel the true effect that the power of governement, the wrong government, could have on our daily lives towards the end of my university years. I saw Reaganomics taking its toll on the middle and working classes, on the poor and those who were trying to help others not as well off as themselves. I saw that great surge forward of the upper class in America, the rich not only getting richer, but getting all the breaks as well. While those of us trying to achieve something greater than what we grew up with were having to push harder and harder against a door that was slowly closing on us. This was the moment when I decided to go into what I have since refered to as “My Self-Imposed Political Exile”. I packed two suitcases, dumped all my other belongings that I hadn’t succeeded in giving away out on the curb, and flew off to search for a better life, a a different culture, a more humane society. This was my one great political statement though maybe it just turned out to be a scream in an empty room.
And all the while, I listened, I watched, I studied and I voted.
Election 2008 will surely go down in history as the greatest election of modern times, a campaign and election that awaked so much passion, excited so much emotion and, yes, so much hope. More people came out to work for the Obama Campaign than has ever been seen before. Rejecting 8 long, dirty, difficult years of an Administration that failed America, failed Americans. Inspired by hope and propelled into action, motivated by a smart, educated, compassionate man surrounded by smart, educated and compassionate people, we voted him into office.
I have felt the wave of change sweep over me and all around me. I am still in a dream-like period of disbelief. I am also, like many others, going through election withdrawal. Yes, it has allowed me to refocus on my baking and my blog, as well as my family, I should mention, but the build-up to November 4th was so exhilarating that I am completely exhausted by the fever pitch of the past few months. But the let down is mixed with the true hope that things can and will change. Hopefully we are moving back as well as forward to a more diplomatic, compassionate country, a country and an administration committed to education, health and opportunity.
My own personal political refuge in a small country called mudflats has given me the desire to bring myself out of my political exile and return home. Sooner or later. But for now, through the magic of internet I have been drawn into the shelter of a group of passionate, caring and intelligent people who have gathered around AKM’s campfire. We have opened up our minds and our hearts to each other, going well beyond the talk of issues and administration. We all agree that this election has made us understand how close we are, in fact, to the center, how our every vote, our every action can indeed affect other human beings around us, and how together we can bring about the change we need and crave. We have truly formed a family that I mean to hang onto for a long time.